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Global workforce seeks balance between office and remote working post-pandemic

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Most workers surveyed would expect work to continue partly remote after the pandemic ends.

Nearly 90 percent of global workforce polled expect their jobs to partly remain remote, a workforce study shows.

In fact, the preference to occasionally work from home is nearly universal, according to a study of 209,000 workers in 190 countries by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and The Network.

Eighty-nine percent of people said their preference in the future will be for a job that allows them to work from home at least occasionally. The study added that even manual workers will be looking for flexibility.

An expectation on the part of workers that they will be allowed to work remotely more often will be one of the legacies of the pandemic, the study, called “Decoding Global Ways of Working,” noted.  

“People got a taste of remote work during the pandemic, and it has completely changed their expectations,” said Rainer Strack, one of the authors of the study and a senior partner at BCG. “It sends a very clear message that nine out of ten people want some aspects of this to be sustained. Employers can’t treat working from home as an occasional perk anymore.”

This is the second in a series of publications that BCG and The Network are releasing about the pandemic’s impact on worker preferences and expectations, reflecting the opinions of 209,000 participants in 190 countries.

Most people prefer a hybrid model, with two or three days a week from home and the rest in the office, according to the study. The remote-oriented workforce is not just those in digital, knowledge, and office jobs—many of whom are already working remotely—who want more workplace flexibility on a permanent basis.

Even study participants who have jobs that require the handling of physical goods, or contact with clients, expressed a desire for setups that would allow them to work remotely at least occasionally.

It is indeed flexibility that most people are interested in, not a 180-degree turn in the traditional model that would have everyone working from home all the time and never going to a physical work location.

This desire for flexibility was echoed by a recent report by Formica Group, which found that a clear majority of Europeans (84 percent) are keen to have the office back in their lives, citing a year of widespread homeworking instigated by COVID-19.    

“While more than half of Europeans (55 percent) say homeworking is more enjoyable than office working, 85 percent say the office remains either important or essential – with a lack of social interaction and collaborative working among the most cited challenges facing homeworkers,” the report titled “Bring back the office!” said.

Formica Group’s research argues that widespread homeworking is a technological, management and perhaps most significantly a psychological challenge. “As a result, face-to-face and collaborative work is likely to be more valued than ever – with almost seven in 10 (69 percent) of employees wanting a hybrid working pattern in future,” the research explained.

Jennifer Neale, Marketing Communications Manager at Formica Group, commented that the findings of the research reveal the depth and complexity of the challenges facing business across Europe. “With some smart thinking and moves towards adaptable design, lightweight furniture, stringent cleaning regimes and guaranteed social distancing, the future of the office still looks like a long-term winner,” Neale noted.

Only a relatively small proportion of workers—one in four—would switch to a completely remote model if they could.

The enthusiasm for fully remote work is particularly low in developed countries. Fully remote is the preference of only 7 percent of people in Denmark and 8 percent of people in Switzerland and France, for instance, the BCG study revealed.

Interestingly, there is more of an appetite for fully remote working in developing countries.

For instance, more than 40 percent of people in the Philippines and parts of Africa say they would be willing to work from home permanently.

Falling outside the pattern of developed and developing country attitudes are the U.S. and China. Thirty-five percent of Americans say they would be happy to do their jobs 100 percent from home.

This relatively high proportion (the U.S. is the only developed country that ranks in the top ten for interest in fully remote working) may reflect the difference in cost of living between large American cities and the locations where people would choose to live if they did not need to commute.

By contrast, only 8 percent of Chinese workers say they would be willing to work from home full time, a number that places China near the bottom of our list of fully remote working preference. (The analysis was done for 45 countries; China ranked 43rd.)

An emphasis on near-term benefits

Apart from work location and work practices, the study also identified some shifts in what people value at work. In BCG and The Network’s last study on global talent, in 2018 (pre-pandemic), respondents said that they expected their jobs to provide them with a mix of both short and long-term benefits.

The short-term benefits that were most important in 2018—good relationships with colleagues and managers and a good work-life balance—still top the list today. And another short term-benefit—pay—has joined them as a priority. Long-term benefits like career development and skills training have faded.

“It would be surprising if priorities didn’t change, given the economic and existential crisis everyone has experienced,” said Ana López Gobernado, international operations director of The Network and one of the report’s authors.

“During a pandemic, people are happy to just have a job and a stable income. At the same time, relationships and a balanced life still matter. Employers need to ensure that these softer needs are met even in virtual work settings,” Gobernado added.

New worker attitudes on diversity and the environment

COVID-19 is not the only event in the past year that has changed people’s expectations about work. The Black Lives Matter protests and the #MeToo movement have job seekers paying more attention to social values in the workplace.

In addition, a succession of climate catastrophes, including the Australian bushfires of 2019 and 2020, have prompted some job seekers to question prospective employers’ levels of environmental commitment.

Roughly seven in ten respondents said diversity and climate had become more important issues to them in the last year.

“The younger the cohort, the higher the likelihood of the issue growing in importance. Half of all workers said they would not accept a job offer from an employer whose policies in these areas did not match their personal beliefs,” the study highlighted.

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Consumer confidence hitting record high, but with hangovers left from pandemic

TK Maloy

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Global consumer confidence soared to record heights in the first quarter of 2021, according to The Conference Board: Global Consumer Confidence Survey, as vaccination campaigns broadened, travel restrictions loosened, and governments and central banks continued to provide robust economic stimulus.

These factors are contributing to various geographic regions returning to a “state of normalcy sooner” including increased spending across the spectrum, but some economic hangovers persist from the global pandemic crisis.

The Conference Board is a member-driven think tank that has delivered economic insights since 1916. It released this recent global consumer confidence survey on Wednesday. Their methodology for what is comparably a business cycle index is based on a point system where a figure above 100 is considered positive, or below 100 representing decline. This survey also employs opinion polling which is expressed as percentages.

“The lightening of consumer moods globally bodes well for spending throughout the remainder of the year as economies continue to emerge from the 2020 pandemic-induced economic downturn and work toward arresting the spread of the virus,” said Dana Peterson, Chief Economist of The Conference Board.

“Nonetheless, the global economic recovery – and, consequently, consumer sentiment – is likely to continue to vary notably from region to region. Economies with greater access to vaccines are likely to achieve herd immunity, and thus will return to a state of normalcy sooner,” Peterson added.

The survey found that overall global consumer confidence shot up from 98 in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 108 points in the first quarter of 2021. That figure exceeded the reading of 106 registered in pre-pandemic 2020 Q1. Reminder, a figure above 100 is considered positive and the 108-point score is the highest recorded since the survey began in 2005.

Confidence rose in 49 of 65 markets surveyed, as economic activity resumed, COVID-19 cases peaked in many economies, and vaccine development and distribution expanded.

The vaccines contributed to that revival, so individual economies’ level of access to them will greatly affect the timing of their recoveries and boosts in consumer confidence. (For 2020 Q4 indexes, results exclude China due to data collection constraints.)

Confidence still varied across regions: Latin America (up 13 points, from 86 to 99) and Europe (up 11 points, from 76 to 87) enjoyed the biggest gains in consumer confidence. But both regions started from low bases, and Europe remains the least confident region. North America, by contrast, slipped six points, from 116 to 110, while Africa and the Middle East dropped from 101 to 97.

Growing confidence in personal finances, especially, propelled the stronger global sentiment: Consumers were significantly more optimistic about their finances in Q1 2021, with the gap between positive and negative responses standing at +29 percentage points, up substantially from +15 percentage points in Q4 2020.

Of the three key drivers of global confidence, personal finances made the largest impact, although the other two drivers also trended upward: Sentiment about job prospects were up overall around the globe and spending intentions flipped from negative (-7 ppts) in Q4 2020 to positive (+6 ppts) in Q1 2021.

Consumers are gearing up for a return to normalcy: Consumers spent more on entertainment outside of the home, clothing, and vacations. Taken together, these trends indicate that consumers are increasingly looking forward to returning to normal activities at some point this year.

Given that consumption levels significantly contribute to growth in many mature economies, such activity in anticipation of greater freedom later on supports The Conference Board’s upwardly revised projection of 5 percent real GDP growth globally this year.

However, around the world, consumers also ramped up their protective savings: 57 percent of global consumers indicated that they are putting money into savings, an increase of 9 ppts from the previous quarter. Their efforts to economize primarily reflected savings on hospitality and entertainment services.

Consumers planned to eliminate annual vacations, delay upgrading technology, and cut meals away from home. They also switched to cheaper grocery brands and drove their cars less.

The scars of the recession lingered, with health and economic concerns still looming large.

The world is not quite buzzing yet.

A strong majority of consumers (64 percent) said that their market was still in recession during the first quarter of 2021. While that figure dropped sharply from the end of 2020 (down 17 percentage points, from 81 percent) recession concerns remained elevated.

Globally, only 41 percent of consumers expected that their economy would be out of recession in 12 months, virtually unchanged from the previous quarter.

Consumers’ worries about their own health (22 percent) and economic performance (20 percent) dominated their top concerns. This trend will likely hold through mid-2021 given the continued crisis, and the time it will take to arrest the coronavirus and establish herd immunity.

“With uncertainty around jobs and health prompting consumers to continue economizing, it seems clear that GDP returning to pre-pandemic levels will not in itself mark a return to the old normal,” said board chief economist Peterson. “Healing in labor markets may take longer, with greater potential for scarring among industries that are vulnerable to automation and digital transformation.”

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Unbound by geography, CFOs look to capitalize on global talent pool

Inside Telecom Staff

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A large majority of CFOs around the world are planning to expand operations into new countries in 2021 to achieve their long-term growth strategies, according to a recent survey by CFO Research and Globalization Partners.

The survey also uncovered changing perceptions about hiring and remote work because of their pandemic experiences, with respondents saying they want to attract from the global talent pool that is unbound by the geographic restrictions of their company’s operating model.

The February 2021 survey of chief financial officers, chief executive officers and other senior finance executives also cites a common theme that they are prioritizing the need to build resiliency and although optimistic, disclose that their businesses are still stabilizing and in recovery.

Optimism towards organizational performance in 2021 varies across the regions. Asia-Pacific (APAC) CFOs are more optimistic about success in 2021 than their counterparts in the UK and North America. Since 65 percent of APAC respondents indicated that they expect to exceed goals and expectations in 2021, compared to 46 percent for UK and 47 percent for North America.

“The ongoing rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, investments flowing into the region, and momentum gained as companies accelerated their digital investments during the pandemic – all these are contributing to positive sentiments toward business in 2021,” said Charles Ferguson, General Manager, Asia Pacific, Globalization Partners. “With the ongoing shift in the global supply chain and a renewed focus of the US, UK and EU to grow alliances with APAC markets, there is an abundance of opportunity to expect from this region.”

CFOs’ global view within their hiring approaches

When asked to describe their hiring strategy over the next 12 to 18 months as, 48 percent of APAC respondents say they will attract new talent where they are based while 43 percent say they want to attract new talent that is unbounded by the geographic restrictions of their company’s operating model.

APAC CFOs have a high degree of interest in tapping into a more cost-effective, global talent pool—a concept favored by half of those surveyed –and capturing market share through global expansion, which is favored by 61 percent.

CFOs’ altered workforce management strategies

Seventy-four percent of the survey respondents in APAC anticipate operating remote and/or hybrid workforce models in the next 12 to 18 months.

Eighty-three percent of executives also say the COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally altered the way they think about hiring and workforce management and 89 percent say it altered how they consider remote employees or the work-from-anywhere model.

In parallel, CFOs are deeming global expansion as a top priority in the next 12 to 18 months.

“Implementing a strategy for global expansion and presence” was deemed a top priority in the next 12 to 18 months for 52 percent of APAC executives, compared to 38 percent of the EMEA executives and 36 percent of the North American executives.

With that in mind, 55 percent of the APAC CFOs that are expecting to achieve their goals in 2021 are already engaging a global (Professional Employer Organization) PEO, while 25 percent plan to use a global PEO within one year to support their international business strategy and 17 percent plan to engage a global PEO within three years.

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Drivers wanted: Record demand at Uber as vaccinations rise

Associated Press

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Drivers wanted Record demand at Uber as vaccinations rise

Uber is offering sign-up bonuses and other incentives for drivers as it faces record demand for rides and meal delivery.

The San Francisco ride-hailing company said Monday that total monthly bookings, including food delivery and passenger service, reached an all-time high in March.

In a government filing, the company said demand for ride-hailing, which plunged during coronavirus lockdowns last year, has recovered more quickly than expected as daily COVID-19 vaccinations exceed 3 million per day in the U.S.

Some people are still avoiding public transportation out of infection fears, potentially boosting demand for services like Uber and Lyft further.

Passenger bookings last month reached the highest level since last March, when spiking infection rates began to shut the country down. Bookings last month hit an annual run rate of $30 billion. Last year, Uber’s passenger business recorded $26.4 billion in gross bookings.

Food delivery, of course, has surged over the past year and in March Uber Eats deliveries hit an all-time high. With more regions opening restaurants to at least partial capacity, that could be a positive sign for Uber as it could signal that some habits acquired during the pandemic may stick.

Food delivery jumped 150% from last March to an annualized run rate of $52 billion, the company said.

Last week, Uber announced $250 million in sign-up bonuses and other perks to lure more drivers. Many drivers gave up last year when demand dried up, the company said. But demand now exceeds the supply of Uber drivers on call, the company said.

In another perk, Uber has partnered with Walgreens to make it easier for drivers to get vaccinated.

Driving professionally, however, may still be considered too risky by some. Last month, a woman was arrested on suspicion of pepper-spraying an Uber driver in San Francisco who was coughed at and insulted after he demanded a passenger wear a mask.

Drivers may still be holding out to see if Uber will sweeten pay and benefits. Uber was forced to classify its drivers in the United Kingdom as workers last month — not self-employed — after a Supreme Court ruling there.

The company said Monday it has begun a historical claims settlement for its U.K. drivers.

Shares of Uber Technologies Inc. rose nearly 5% to $60.40 Monday.


By DEE-ANN DURBIN

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